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Poetry Contests for High School Students

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Poetry is a powerful medium of self-expression. For high school students with a knack for words and creative writing, poetry contests can provide an excellent platform to showcase your talent and gain recognition. Participating in these contests not only allows students to explore a creative side but also offers opportunities for personal and academic growth. This article explores ten poetry contests specifically designed for high school students. So, let's discover the fantastic platform that a writing contest can give your poem, celebrating the height of criticality, genius, social change, and creative expression.

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Find the Right High School Poetry Contest for You

1. "The National Poetry Contest for High School Students"

Hosted by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, this creative writing contest is one of the most prestigious avenues for young poets. Aspiring high school poets from across the nation can submit their original works and compete for national recognition and substantial scholarships. The contest offers various categories, allowing students to showcase their poetic prowess effectively as topical winners.

2. "The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition"

Organized by the Poetry Society of America, 'The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition' caters specifically to high school students. This contest aims to encourage current students of poetry and provides an opportunity to connect with established poets. The Fresh Voices Competition focuses on recognizing talent and promising work from young writers, fostering inspiration, and building a sense of community.

3. "The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers"

The prestigious Kenyon Review sponsors this contest, named in honor of Patricia Grodd. The competition accepts submissions from high school sophomores and juniors only, further emphasizing its dedication to identifying and nurturing young writing talent. Winning 1st place, 2nd place, or 3rd place with your submission means a generous cash prize and a chance to attend a summer workshop at the Kenyon Review Young Writers' Program.

4. "The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award"

Presented by The Poetry Society, this renowned contest has been empowering and encouraging young poets since 1998. The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is open to all 11-17-year-olds worldwide. It welcomes submissions of original poems in any style or theme. Winning entries receive recognition, mentorship opportunities, poetry books, and a chance to attend a life-changing residential writing course. Joining the ranks of Foyle Young Poets with a winning poem will surely get you closer to having your works published by the Poetry Foundation.

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5. "Ink of Identity"

A poetry contest celebrating diverse identities, this competition aims to create a safe and inclusive space for self-expression, allowing poets to delve into their personal stories, heritage, cultural experiences, and the intersections of their identities. Poems submitted to this art contest can explore themes like race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, and more. Judges evaluate the poems based on creativity, personal reflection, and the ability to evoke a sense of connection and understanding.

6. "Louder Than a Bomb"

Originating from Chicago, "Louder Than a Bomb" is the world's largest youth poetry festival and competition. Founded by Kevin Coval and Anna West, this dynamic contest celebrates the voices of young poets from diverse backgrounds. Teams of high school students compete in a thrilling spoken word poetry showdown, showcasing their raw emotions while fostering teamwork and self-expression. Louder Than a Bomb embodies the mantra "The point is not the points; the point is the poetry."

7. "The Manningham Poetry Competition"

Run by the Manningham City Council Library Service in Australia, the Manningham Poetry Competition invites high school students to explore their creativity through words. Entry guidelines and themes may vary each year, challenging poets to adapt and stretch their artistic abilities. The competition aims to encourage emerging voices and celebrates the power of poetry by nurturing a love for language and literature.

8. “Words for Change"

This high school contest centers on marginalized poet voices for social change. In their submission guidelines, the contest encourages students to explore pressing issues such as racial justice, equality, climate change, gender empowerment, mental health, and more. Poets are invited to submit thought-provoking and impactful poems that showcase their unique perspectives, advocacy, and aspirations. Judges score poems based on the originality and relevance of the submission and the power of the writer to inspire change.

9. "The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards"

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is an acclaimed national program that recognizes creative excellence in young artists and writers. Their poetry category provides an inclusive platform for high school students to submit their original works, with professional recognition and scholarships as prizes. This contest not only acknowledges exceptional talent but also offers opportunities for publication and exhibition of winning entries.

10. "The Jim Wayne Miller Contest for Poetry"

Named after the accomplished poet and professor, the Jim Wayne Miller Contest for Poetry encourages high school students to explore their creative potential and develop their poetic voices. Organized annually by the AETN (Arkansas Educational Television Network), this contest celebrates the beauty and power of language. Participants can experience the joy of creating poetry while competing for generous cash prizes and recognition.

11. “Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 High School Poetry Prize

The Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 High School Poetry Prize is a highly selective, international competition judged by Princeton University's creative writing faculty members. Many past winners have gone on to attend Princeton. The contest is only open to current high school juniors.

12. “YoungArts

The National YoungArts competition accepts submissions in ten artistic disciplines, including writing. (Poetry and spoken word submissions are both accepted in this category.) Awards range from $250 to $10,000, and award-winners with distinction are invited to participate in National YoungArts Week in January. In addition, the YoungArts competition is the official avenue for high school seniors to be nominated as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts!

13. “Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognize young artists and writers at the regional and national levels. They offer a range of prizes, including cash and tuition scholarships, for the winners. In addition, they administer the National Student Poets Program for grades 10-11. Through this program, five students are selected annually from the regional competitions to act as ambassadors for poetry in their communities.

14. “Bennington College Young Writers Awards

The Bennington College Young Writers Awards welcomes submissions from students around the world in three categories: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Please note: a teacher or mentor must review and sponsor all submissions to the contest. To read past recipients’ submissions, the winning pieces from the past decade are available for download on the program’s webpage. 

15. “River of Words Contest

A competition that places itself at the intersection of science and the arts, the River of Words Contest centers around connections with places and ecosystems in all senses of the word. According to the program, “We look for art and poetry that shows a real connection to the world around you. For some folks, that means a lot of green and open space; for others, that means a city environment, with different noises, smells, and sights. We're looking for youth to show us what only they see about their world.”

Local, Regional, & State Poetry Competitions for High School Students

1. “CCNY Spring Poetry Festival

The City College of New York’s annual Spring Poetry Festival always includes an all-city-public-high school poetry contest. In addition to receiving cash prizes, contest winners will be invited to read their poems during the festival. The one-day program also includes readings by CCNY students, faculty, and alumni, as well as guest poets.

2. “United Arts Spoken Word Contest

This brand-new spoken word contest was spearheaded by 2023 Piedmont Poet Laureate Dasan Ahanu. The regional competition will continue to welcome submissions in 2024 from high schoolers throughout the Triangle area in North Carolina.

3. “Marin Poetry Center High School Poetry Contest

In addition to awarding first, second, and third prizes, this contest will also select 50 poems to be included and published in a youth poetry anthology. All high school students residing in the Bay Area are invited to send one to three poems. According to this year’s judge, successful submissions will demonstrate courage of expression, originality of language, and skill in poetic technique.

4. “Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a tiered spoken word competition. Participating schools hold their own contests whose winners advance to the district or county competitions. Winners of the state finals get to compete in Washington, D.C. for national recognition. The regulations and awards can vary by state and region; each individual competition is organized separately. 

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Participating in poetry contests can be a transformative experience for high school students. The ten writing competitions explored in this article offer unique platforms where prospective students of poetry can express themselves, gain recognition, and connect with fellow writers. They encourage creativity and criticality, foster a love for language, and provide opportunities for personal growth. Engaging with contests like these not only helps students refine their writing skills but also provides a stepping stone toward a potential career in poetry. Remember, poetry is not just about winning but about the joy of self-expression that emerges when celebrating the transformative power of words. 

If you’re looking for more inspiration on creative writing projects, or are hoping to explore other writing competitions for high school students, check out our other articles!